There's a heart-breaking elimination, but also Nutella
MasterChef fans, you must have been very good boys and girls this week. You’re being treated to two full scoops of your beloved cooking competition, the apparently “most shocking elimination in MasterChef history” (it’s maybe not the most shocking, but most infuriating, for sure), and, best of all, you get to watch Gordon Ramsay operate a tractor on a farm. Everything’s coming up MasterChef fans!
Since we have two hours and multiple challenges to survive, let’s get started, shall we?
Our Top 11 home cooks face another team challenge, and this time it’s all about celebrating the American farmer. Each team will be cooking a pork dish for 101 farmers, and to really get a feel for the industry, they’ll be picking fresh veggies directly from the ground. It’s fabulous, and every challenge should include a wheelbarrow component from now on.
The judges think there are two cheftestants who haven’t yet been given the opportunity to show off their leadership skills, so they appoint Dan and Diamond as team captains. Thanks to a coin toss going in Dan’s favor, he gets to decide which advantage is, well, the real advantage: He can either choose which cut of pork his team will work with (bone-in pork chop or pork tenderloin), or he can have a team of six cooks and get first pick. Dan is apparently a strategic dynamo, and he realizes that if he takes the “first pick” advantage, he’ll end up with whoever’s left for last, which will most assuredly be Nathan. Dan doesn’t want Nathan on his team; Nathan ruins everything. So, Dan opts for selecting the pork chop and a team of five: himself, Brandi, Tanorria, Katie, and David. That leaves Red Team captain Diamond with Shaun, Andrea, Terry, Eric, and yes, Nathan.
Chipotle Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes and Sautéed Kale
After a rather painless team huddle, the Red Team gets to work on their pork tenderloin coated in Shaun’s special bourbon reduction sauce. The team huddle is the last thing that goes smoothly for this crew. The team has two big problems slowing them down: The first is Diamond’s indecisiveness; the second, Nathan. Even when given a simple task (today it’s the kale), Nathan manages to mess it up. He doesn’t cook enough, and the Red Team has to scramble to get more kale on the plates of farmers who are literally standing in a field of kale.
Every guest eventually gets a plate of food, but maybe losing the kale wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Guests complain the veggie is too salty, and one farmer had to spit it out. That’s not a great review.
Spice-Rubbed Pork Chop with Black Rice and Apple Coleslaw
Dan, like Diamond, is a bit hesitant in his leadership skills as the challenge gets underway, but after a magical, albeit terse, pep talk from Gordon, Dan is confident and organized, and proves himself to be a true leader in the kitchen. Even when some of their chops end up too charred to serve, Dan remains calm. He enlists David to carefully slice off any of the burned parts and they continue to plate as if nothing went wrong. The farmers are impressed, too. Thanks to Nathan’s botched kale, the Blue Team easily wins on the vegetable front, and people like the pork chop covered in Dan’s special North Carolina BBQ sauce. It is, by all accounts, a successful day for the Blue Team.
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There’s no real suspense here, the Blue Team wins with 81 votes to the Red Team’s 20, but there is some drama. As the Red Team faces the crushing realization that they will have to face a Pressure Test, many of the members take it out on Nathan. Nathan’s heard enough, though, and he confronts Andrea. No one can push Andrea’s buttons like Nathan can, and she tells him she can’t wait until he gets eliminated tomorrow — which, of course, means he won’t be eliminated because that would be too easy.
NEXT: Welcome to the sausage party
The Blue Team is allowed to save one person from the Red Team before the Pressure Test begins. This can go one of two ways: They can be strategic about it by saving a weaker person (Nathan or Diamond) and getting rid of a stronger cook, or they could give it to a deserving chef who’s more than likely going to make it out of this Pressure Test alive anyway. Keeping with the theme of the day, the Blue Team opts for strategy: Nathan is officially a member of season 7’s Top 10.
The Pressure Test du jour is sausage in a bun. Not just any sausage, people: homemade sausage. The cooks have 60 minutes to grind up their favorite combo of meat and seasoning, squeeze it into some casing, and get it up on the judges’ stand before time runs out. (Remember that last part, because it’s important.) No one seems too concerned with the fact that they’re being asked to put casing on their own meat, which leaves me wondering if this was some life skill I missed? Seriously, not even a minor freak out over this? Where’s Nathan when you need him?
Well, apparently no one is freaking out because most of these cooks are adept at making sausage. I’d like to eat every single one of their offerings — except Diamond’s raw chicken and asiago sausage, I do have some amount of self-control. But seriously, Eric’s pork and veal sausage with cheese sauce? Yes. Terry’s fennel-pork sausage covered in marinara? Sign me up. Andrea’s bratwurst on a toasted pretzel bun? I’ll take three, please. Even when Christina describes Shaun’s venison sausage and its cheddar-jalapeño sauce topping as “grainy,” I don’t really care; It looks that good.
Any other day, Diamond would be sent home for serving Gordon raw meat, but today is not just any day — today is that “shocking elimination” day, remember? Unfortunately, Andrea, whose bratwurst was so good Gordon made all the other contestants try a piece, was three seconds too late in getting her food up to the judges’ table. THREE SECONDS. The sheer number of times the judges mentioned that rule was a sure sign it would come into play, but it didn’t make watching Andrea freeze in the final seconds any easier. Sure, rules are rules, and why have any if they won’t uphold them? But it’s tough to watch a talented cook go home for something unrelated to actually cooking. Alas, these are the times we live in — if you don’t like it, stop watching reality TV cooking competitions, I guess.
With that bitter taste still in our mouths, we move on to hour two and a fresh new Mystery Box challenge to distract us. Under tonight’s Mystery Box: Nutella! The newly crowned Top 10 will be whipping up their best Nutella breakfast dish alongside Christina Tosi, who just can’t help herself. The judges are looking for people who are pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones, and after 60 minutes, call the top three dishes forward:
Dan Paustian, Charlotte, NC
Nutella Turnovers with Vanilla Sour Cream Maple Syrup
Dan is still riding high after his successful outing as a team captain. He’s ready to prove to the judges that he’s taking this competition seriously. Gordon, Edward, and Christina have nothing but good things to say about Dan’s sweet and savory pastries. In fact, those turnovers look so good, Christina thought they were store-bought for a moment. Then she remembered she’s on a show called MasterChef. Anyway, Dan is peaking.
Tanorria Askew, Chattanooga, TN
Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Banana Sauce and Nutella
The judges are impressed by Tanorria’s ability to take a classic dish and elevate it. Tanorria cuts the sweetness of everything with the saltiness in her Nutella-covered bacon and — whoa, sorry, I just blacked out. Nutella-covered bacon? NUTELLA-COVERED BACON. Sounds like something from my dreams but also something so real I can…almost taste it.
NEXT: What an overachiever
Terry Mueller, Long Island, NY
Nutella Assortment of French Toast, Beignets, Crepes and Truffles
Of course this man is in the top three: He makes Nutella four ways, and he’s also a gentleman. Terry’s so excited to be up for a Mystery Box challenge win; he’s been at the top for elimination challenges and pressure tests, he’s been a team captain, but he’s yet to conquer the Mystery Box. The judges love all four of his items, but really go gaga for the truffles.
It’s tough to beat a man who made four Nutella-based dishes, so Terry wins and he’s whisked off to the pantry. He’ll be receiving immunity from the Elimination Test and holds the fate of his fellow contestants in his large, capable hands. Terry, I hope this Mystery Box win is everything you hoped it would be!
Terry is given the opportunity to select which rice-based dish will be the focus of the next challenge: paella, bibimbap, or risotto. Is there no limit to Terry’s adorableness? Even when Gordon Ramsay makes an uncomfortable joke about how cooking risotto is like making love (don’t stop for 25 minutes), Terry’s reaction is funny yet appropriate. He’s keeping this whole thing about cooking, anyway. Because Terry is riding the popular Strategy Train tonight, he selects bibimbap — a Korean classic and probably the most challenging for the rest of the home cooks.
Edward Lee explains that a good bibimbap should have, first and foremost, a layer of rice that is crispy and delicious on the bottom. Then, add anywhere from four to six toppings that look visually appealing, but more importantly, make sense when mixed together. After 45 minutes of cook time, the judges are treated to some tasty-looking bibimbap: Brandi nails the crispy rice in her shrimp and pineapple dish, Nathan (yes, that Nathan) surprises the judges with his use of African spices, and Dan impresses with a smart dish that uses duck fat to crisp the rice and a nice curry blend to elevate it. However, there was one standout dish and the big win goes to:
Shaun O’Neale, Las Vegas, NV
Strip Steak Bibimbap with Pickled Radishes and Shishito Peppers
This high-end take on the Korean staple is visually stunning. When Edward Lee mixes all of Shaun’s ingredients together, the dish tastes nothing short of excellent. It’s restaurant-quality, and if Shaun keeps cooking like this, Edward is sure we’ll be seeing him in the finale.
Not all the home cooks were as successful with their bibimbap as Shaun, though. The judges put three contestants up for elimination. Let’s see what went wrong:
Diamond Alexander, San Diego, CA
Thanksgiving Bibimbap with Fried Chicken and Cornbread
As soon as Gordon gets a look at Diamond’s dish, he’s obviously revolted. The thing is rough-looking, and as Gordon points out, has nothing to do with traditional bibimbap. Cornbread on top of (not crispy!) rice, topped with a heavy gravy? Gordon can barely shovel a small bite into his mouth, and when he does, he’s still not impressed.
David Williams, Las Vegas, NV
Ratatouille Bibimbap with Italian Sausage
David is another home cook who put together a bowl with ingredients that made no sense. Edward points out that bibimbap is Korean, ratatouille is French, and on top of that he’s using Italian sausage. It’s a big risk that doesn’t pay off. Some of the ingredients are beautifully chopped and placed in the dish, but then David smothered them with his tomato sauce. It just doesn’t work.
Katie Dixon, Hattiesburg, MS
Thai Bibimbap with Shrimp and Pineapple
Katie wants to make a dish her two daughters would enjoy, so she goes for Thai flavor profiles. Visually, the dish is a mess, and the vegetables on top are cut way too big. As Christina points out, the flavor and texture is clunky, and the decision to put a thick sweet potato next to thick Thai peanut sauce was a major misstep.
David is sent to the Balcony of Safety thanks to the redeeming factor of his rice, and since up until this point Katie has been steadily growing in her kitchen prowess, it’s Diamond who falls short tonight. The pageant queen is asked to de-apron herself and get on out. Hopefully she’s consoled by the big bear hug Terry gives her on her way out the door. Let that be enough, Diamond.